Interview with Johan Styren, CEO of LeoVegas Gaming Ltd – (EEGReport – Magazine – Issue3 – June – September 2016)

EEGReport Magazine: The LeoVegas brand has grown a lot since its launch and I guess after winning all the top awards, it would seem there is no other step a company can do to bring more success, yet you guys have made another huge leap. Which were the factors that propelled LeoVegas owners to list LeoVegas AB on the Nasdaq First North Premier?

maxresdefault

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

 The main objectives to get listed on the Nasdaq First North Premier was to facilitate the company’s continued growth strategy by broadening the company’s shareholder base and providing LeoVegas with access to the Swedish and international capital markets. We’re proud that the interest in the LeoVegas shares was so strong that the offering was significantly over-subscribed. In fact, through our IPO our shareholder base grew by 30,000 new shareholders. We see the listing as a platform for further growth.

EEGReport Magazine: Will the generated capital help LeoVegas pursue an even larger portion of the market?

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

We see the IPO as a platform for growth and that will allow us to explore various possibilities of entering new strategic markets. Even before the IPO we had a strong balance sheet, it is even stronger now but the capital that was raised in conjunction with the IPO wasn´t a must to deliver on your growth strategy.

  Starting operating in a new market is not a simple process – it is a thorough undertaking made up of multiple processes. You obviously need to start off with a detailed market research to see if the market is viable or not for your offering and once you have all your data and forecasts in hand, you then need to decide whether as a company you should explore it further or not. This, of course, also involves analyzing the regulations of the market and whether your current practices fully comply with the market and its legal requirements.

 We believe that being mobile-first really gives us that competitive edge over larger and perhaps more established operators. Mobile usage in certain markets is increasing exponentially and we will definitely be looking at the various possibilities that such a development has to offer.

EEGReport Magazine: Since mobile gaming has evolved and keep evolving yearly, what are you guys planning in the next few years in terms of accessibility or entering new markets?

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

The mobile gaming sector is evolving constantly. LeoVegas had the foresight of investing in a mobile-first platform even before there was a marked shift in people’s behavioral patterns.

 

The mobile-first mantra has been practiced in everything that LeoVegas has embarked on so far, and we plan on keeping it as our foremost guiding principal for all our future endeavors. Of course, being mobile-first comes with its own set of challenges. As said, the sector is constantly evolving and to continue offering the best experience out there, we need to always be one step ahead.

 

Therefore, we are constantly updating our platform according to new features and possibilities that updates in mobile devices and/or operating systems have to offer. With the latest iOS update, for example, we exploited the 3D Touch feature that was introduced. We incorporated 3D Touch technology using pressure sensors to provide Peek and Pop access to the latest played and top featured games straight from the iPhone home screen without the need to launch the LeoVegas app. This feature is currently only available on the iPhone6s but it will be commonly used in the future.

 

Being in this market always means that we need to be ahead of the game with regards to new products. Hence,m even before the launch of Apple Watch, we were already looking at how we can develop further our offerings specifically for wearables.

EEGReport Magazine: According to recent figures the total sum wagered on mobile casino games is expected to continue growing in the upcoming years. Do you think that mobile gambling shall become a true factor for which online gambling markets open their doors for online gambling? I’m referring to countries where mobile users are in large crowds and use apps to play free games and the government isn’t issuing licenses for online gambling operators.

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

I fully agree that the use of smartphones and tablets is definitely increasing. Whereas a few years back, mobile devices were a commodity, they are today considered as a necessity. I would go a step further and say that nowadays we’re witnessing the phenomenon of multiple devices where people use their smartphone and tablet, sometimes at the same time!

 I think that the big operators have already realized the importance of mobile gaming. What we keep finding is that rather than going mobile first, practically all companies opt for a desktop-first approach and then try to adapt their product for mobile. The results are that many a times you feel like you’re looking at a squashed desktop site. I’m not talking about aesthetical issues – there are some quick fixes for that in terms of UX. The actual problems start to arise when it comes to speed, data usage, loading times, etc., which are very specific to mobile devices – issues that are not given too much importance when developing for desktops. Amongst other issues, we find that our competitors’ mobile apps require longer loading and transactional times than our mobile-first product.

 

Therefore, what we might see in the future is that the online companies may scrap their mobile offering completely and restart from scratch by going mobile-first – something that LeoVegas has been doing for the past 4+ years, during which we have really learnt a lot and now pride ourselves as being one of the top professionals in this aspect.

 With regards to licenses, our reasoning is that to gain and maintain trust you need to operate wholly within the boundaries of the law and thus need to comply, and even surpass, the requirements imposed by the different markets and/or license regulations.

EEGReport Magazine: Given the dynamic technology developments and the dramatic shift toward mobile use in the past few years, it’s safe to say that mobile gambling market will grow at a faster pace than ever. Do you agree with this?

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

I agree that the use of mobile is increasing significantly year on year. As I mentioned earlier, in the last years we’ve seen a shift in behavioral patterns where it comes to how we use our mobile devices. Whereas in the past we used to use them for communication purposes, we now use them primarily for entertainment reasons. People love playing games on their mobiles and if they have the possibility of winning real money, the thrill becomes even bigger.

 We are also seeing the decrease of mobile data costs so people are online even when they are not within a free Wi-Fi zone. The European Union will soon abolish roaming charges, meaning that people will be able to continue using their mobile phones in the same way, even whilst they are in another country without the fear of ramping up a big mobile data bill.

 

All of this will encourage more people to seek the thrills that a mobile gaming platform can offer them.

 To answer with some numbers the online gaming market is expected to grow 9% CAGR coming years compared to the mobile segment, the equivalent figure is 24% according to H2 Gambling capital.

EEGReport Magazine: One of the planets largest wireless carrier will begin field trials on so-called fifth-generation, or 5G, technology this year and “some level of commercial deployment” is expected to begin by 2017. That’s earlier than the 2020 timeframe that many in the industry have pegged for the initial adoption of 5G technology. Just as the move to today’s 4G wireless technology drove an explosion of smartphone adoption and mobile services, 5G could similarly drive its own tech revolution. Should online gambling operators take advantage of the golden opportunity hidden in the recent mobile connectivity explosion?

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

These are really exciting times in terms of technology. New advancements in telephony, such as 5G, will of course revolutionize the way we think about the whole mobile device concept. With the shift from 3G to 4G we’ve witnessed a large increase in streaming services. Whether it’s Spotify or YouTube, people are using such services more and more as their bandwidth allows them to do so without any buffering issues that we all struggled with in the past. The adoption of 5G will continue boosting these as well as open a lot of new possibilities and opportunities for mobile gaming companies.

 5G will also open the door for an unlimited amount of connected things and people and therefore concepts such as internet of things, smart cities, connected cars, etc can truly flourish.

Companies in the gaming industry should get on the bandwagon of this revolution and be at the forefront of how they can utilize this new phase of mobile telecommunications standards and the speeds that it can offer.

EEGReport Magazine: In regards to European markets, what are in your professional opinion the most successful license regimes on the continent, beside the UK one of course?

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

The regulation of online gaming is a hot topic – it sometimes can be interpreted and applied in different ways from country to country and even region to region in larger countries.

I believe it’s really positive that in the last few years, European markets have been more open to our industry. Quite a number of countries have improved their regulations and a number of other countries are currently in the stage of adopting new licensing regimes.

At LeoVegas we have licenses in Malta and UK. Malta was the first European Union member state to introduce a comprehensive legislation on remote gaming in 2004. This has resulted in Malta being regarded by the industry as the most prestigious European Tier-1 jurisdiction for gaming operations.

The regulatory framework in Malta is stable, comprehensive and takes into consideration the protection of both operators and players. Furthermore, albeit being very thorough, the procedure to apply for licensing in Malta is very efficient. The island also offers an English speaking workforce, top notch industry specific services and a stable infrastructure.

EEGReport Magazine: #GoneToVegas, we loved that ad. Has it brought the attention you were looking for? I do believe it was a huge success.

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

I’m glad you loved our ads. The #GoneToVegas campaign has indeed been one of the best ones we’ve had for the UK market. We wanted to show how people are able to have some ‘me time’ away from their daily routine and by using our mobile gaming app they can experience the same fun and excitement of Vegas.

 Building a social marketing campaign around the TV campaign has helped us in attaining an even bigger success than we were expecting. The #GoneToVegas campaign has indeed been shortlisted as one of the best social marketing campaigns of the last 12 months as it’s a finalist in the EGR Operator Marketing & Innovation Awards.

EEGReport Magazine: Looking further afield, where are the major emerging opportunities in Europe for mobile casino operators at the moment?

Johan Styren: LeoVegas came to life just over 4 years ago by Gustaf Hagman and Robin Ramm-Ericson with the objective of creating the most outstanding mobile gaming experience. Today, LeoVegas offers some 700 online games of which almost 500 are available on mobile devices. According to our research, this makes us the online casino operator with the largest selection of games available on mobile in Europe. Another proof of our mobile first approach is that over 60% of our deposits and revenues are generated trough mobile devices.

I already hinted earlier that I think there will finally be some good content and supporting functions where it comes to wearables. Furthermore, in light of the operating landscape at the moment I think that the two trends that mobile gaming operators will be looking at are data and personalization. Both of these will be driven by customer preferences and will see the advent of a new approach for customer interaction.

 Data, or as the common term goes, big data is to a certain extent already being used by various operators but I truly believe that there’s still room for improvement. We all know that customers want services that are personalized around them and their necessities. Therefore, with an improved understanding and application of data we should be able to truly provide our customers with unique, custom mobile experiences.